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Mid-Week NL-only Notes, Central Division Edition

Looking at what's been going on in the last few days with a handful of National League Central players.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Cardinals

Brandon Moss had a huge day at the plate against Shelby Miller Tuesday (4 for 5 including a HR, 2 R, and 3 RBI, bringing his batting average up to .231.)  The average is going to be ugly all year, but the fact that he's not an everyday player helps mitigate its negative effect on your stats -- and the power numbers will be there.  Anyone who reached a little for Carlos Martinez or Stephen Piscotty in hopes of a giant breakout season is feeling good so far... Piscotty hit his fourth home run yesterday and has been looking great in the batter's box, while Martinez moved to 4-0, cooling down some of the D-Backs' hotter hitters.  Mike Matheny sent Martinez out to pitch the eighth inning having thrown 93 pitches with an eight-run lead, so the team doesn't appear overly worried about limited his innings at all.  It was a little surprising to see him with only four strikeouts, especially on the heels of Michael Wacha's zero strikeout win against the Padres on Saturday.

Pittsburgh Pirates

As Ray discussed in his Roto Roundup earlier today, Andrew McCutchen woke up from his second annual April slumber with a three-home run game. Jung-Ho Kang has had no setbacks on his minor league rehab assignment and his return to the team looks imminent – I’m assuming this will end David Freese’s run at starting every day, though he hit his first home run yesterday and generally has been holding his own at the plate. Unfortunately for him, so have the rest of the Pirates; most of the lineup, including Jordy Mercer and John Jaso (who has been sitting vs. lefties) is hitting over .300. Gerrit Cole held the Rockies in check with a nice start in Colorado yesterday – he’s been great since starting the season with clunker in Cincinnati. Jeff Locke had a shockingly good start Monday, also in Colorado, though much of the chatter about Pirates pitching involves players at AAA Indianapolis. Tyler Glasnow got his first win for the Indians yesterday after pitching six shutout innings (11K/1BB), while his rotation mate Jameson Taillon, who’s taken a serious backseat to Glasnow after missing two years due to injury, threw six innings of one-hit ball (6K/0 BB) earlier this week.

Cincinnati Reds

Both the starting rotation and the bullpen continue to be a mess. Much like his last start, Brandon Finnegan looked elite early but predictably hit an ugly wall when he was sent out for the seventh inning. Equally predictable was a mini-implosion by Tony Cingrani to seal the Reds’ fate for the evening. Caleb Cotham, however, was effective pitching the eighth, allowing one hit but punching out two in a scoreless inning. It will be some combination of entertaining and excruciating to see what happens when the Reds finally have their next ninth-inning save chance… Cotham may have moved back up the closer depth chart with his performance yesterday, and Ross Ohlendorf is still lurking around (see this nice article about him that Joon Kim wrote recently). At any rate, the bullpen looks to continue giving manager Bryan Price impossible decisions to make in terms of leaving starters in a little too long leading to ruin, versus bringing in a member of the bullpen in too early leading to ruin. Speaking of Reds starters, Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani both recently made 60+ pitch rehab starts and could join the rotation soon. I don’t think your fantasy team should be counting on either of these guys to turn your season around any more than the Reds should, but I know I have a couple of NL-only teams that are already so pitching-challenged that any fresh arm is starting to look pretty good. Meanwhile, Billy Hamilton has started two games in a row after missing a few due to a bad thumb, both of which produced a 1-4 with a run scored from the ninth spot in the lineup. He didn’t run Tuesday, but had two steals on Monday, so at least is showing some signs of life in the one category for which you drafted him… Although x-rays were negative, Brandon Phillips will miss his second game in a row today after being hit in the hand by Matt Harvey.

Milwaukee Brewers

Even as a Ryan Braun owner, I have to admit I had no idea he was off to such a great start (.373/.440/.657, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 12 R) after a pinch-hit double yesterday. After another Jonathan Villar 0-4, I’m officially worried his sleeper appeal as a cheap but effective source of NL speed is not going to come to fruition in 2016… especially with Orlando Arcia turning in a 3-hit game for AAA Colorado Springs yesterday, which included a grand slam and 3 stolen bases. Scooter Gennett is day-to-day after a pre-game scratch due to oblique tightness yesterday, and out of the lineup again today. The Brewers have been getting some decent if not spectacular pitching – Wily Peralta won with a nice start on Sunday (though it was against the Phillies), while Jimmy Nelson took a tough loss yesterday after allowing one earned run over 5 1/3 innings against the Cubs. Chase Anderson, however, has looked disastrous (including against the Phillies on Saturday), and I finally dropped him from the one NL-only team I was desperate enough to draft him in. (Note to self, for the thousandth time: Please, please just take a middle reliever at that point in the draft. Like, always. You can worry about the Wins and Ks later.)

Chicago Cubs

Almost forgot about them because everything is pretty much going according to plan for the Cubs, both in real life and fantasy-wise. The starting rotation has generally looked amazing, while Hector Rondon is not only 4-4 in save opportunities, his ERA still sits at 0.00. Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell have been hitting better of late after slow starts (and only Bryce Harper has more NL home runs than Rizzo’s eight). Javier Baez looks good in part-time duty since coming off the DL. Jason Heyward’s zero home runs are one of the few glaringly ugly stats in the Cubs’ lineup, but he had a 4-hit/3 RBI game on Monday and is actually on pace for over 100 RBI, 100 runs, and 30 steals. Jorge Soler has two home runs but is batting .185 over 54 at bats, so the jury is still out on whether he’ll be a productive baseball player – MLB or fantasy -- in 2016.